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‘Current thinking’ on Basin Plan hard to swallow

28 October 2011

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to demonstrate how the draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan achieves greater balance than last year’s Guide.

“Our members, farmers and affected community reacted strongly to the release of last year’s Guide, and rightly so, as it failed to consider the balance needed between social, economic and environmental considerations,” NFF President Jock Laurie said.

“While we would welcome a mid-term review and the ability to reduce Sustainable Diversion Limits, on face value, what we’re seeing from the MDBA’s ‘current thinking’ on the draft Plan is that the actual figures do not look much different.

“This is a huge concern for us. We have said, and said consistently, that the social and economic needs of the Basin communities must be weighed equally with those of the environment.

“The MDBA and the Government know that cuts of the magnitude they’re talking will have devastating impacts on towns across four states within the Basin, particularly in the Condamine-Balonne, Goulburn-Broken, Murray and Murrumbidgee catchments.

“One of our major concerns with the Guide was that it was too narrow in scope and at times based on poor information. I’m sure most Australians would agree that you cannot make a decision of this magnitude, affecting thousands of people, with a ‘near enough is good enough’ approach.

“What ever happened to the principle of adaptive management?

“A solution for the MDBA would be to put in place a lower figure now, create options for local action on water savings and infrastructure, and understand the impact of such a figure on the community and the environment before making any future increases. The MDBA could use the review point at 2015 to understand the impact of the water delivered to the environment to that point, and make an informed assessment as to whether additional cuts are needed, without the current risk of decimating entire communities.

“We hope that the MDBA has learnt a valuable lesson from the release of the Guide last year: that Basin communities will not accept anything less than a fair and equitable outcome,” Mr Laurie said.

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